The University of Virginia brings back Early Decision

As the college application process insidiously approaches and students make last minute touch ups to the common application essay, it is critical to encourage students to weigh their options in order to make the most informed decision about which schools to apply to and when. While some might choose to apply to every school on their list via the regular decision timeline, others might have a clear top choice to which they are excited to apply to early. Starting this admissions cycle, the University of Virginia is offering the early decision application timeline, contributing to the consistently rising number of elite public institutions that are repositioning themselves to attract the brightest class.  Before this recent change, The University of Virginia offered two application timelines: early action and regular decision. If a student took the early action route, they were not bound to the institution if offered admission in late January and were encouraged to weigh their options based on a variety of factors.

The overall acceptance rate at UVA (27% as of the 2018 admissions cycle) doesn’t differentiate between in-state and out of state students. Because UVA pledges for  ⅔ of every class to be from Virginia, the admissions process is highly competitive for the remaining ⅓ of out of state seats. For UVA’s class of 2023, of the approximately 29,000 out of state applicants only 19% were offered admission. The best possible option for out of state students was to apply early. If they were admitted, they could still weigh other early action or regular decision options, so what did they have to lose?

While UVA implemented this non-binding early action timeline, other elite universities including Harvard, Stanford, and Yale implemented single choice early action or restrictive early action in which students can apply to other early action programs that are non-restrictive, but are only allowed to apply to one restrictive program, preventing them from applying to schools that offer early decision like Cornell, Duke, or Brown. Historically, most out of state students who don’t see UVA as their top choice have taken advantage of the early action timeline to maximize their probability of acceptance while still applying to their top choice school.

So what does UVA’s addition of early decision to their application timeline mean to this year’s applicants?  The “maximization scheme” might no longer be fruitful, and students who see UVA as their top choice should take advantage of early decision. UVA’s early decision timeline is a new way for admissions officers to make a distinction between highly committed students and students who are trying to cast a wide net, so if your child sees UVA as their top choice, they should definitely take advantage of this opportunity. What makes UVA’s switch so interesting is that it’s one of many public universities that is trying to emphasize its exclusivity. Private institutions have always wanted to give preferential treatment to students who see them as their first choice. Their main goal is not only to build a class that has the potential to excel in a wide range of disciplines, but also to build a class that is excited to call their institution “home”. Based on the constantly increasing level of competition not only amongst students, but also amongst the institutions themselves, schools like UVA are putting students in the hot seat to truly see if they want to be a Cavalier.


How can we help you?